Internet Piracy Regulations, Essay Example
“The Internet is the most important single development in the history of human communication since the invention of call waiting.” With that being said the internet has revolutionized the way in which people live. The internet has changed the way people shop, read, gather information, and function. The internet is growing and expanding at an amazing speed. As technology improves so does innovations in making things easier, faster, and better. The internet as great as it is, is also a breeding ground for criminal behavior. As more and more people share personal and private information on the internet that are individuals waiting to steal it. One of the most prevalent of crimes is internet piracy. Internet piracy regulations should become stricter without stifling the culture of creativity on the Internet because it can violate the civil liberties of freedom of speech, but it is stealing and illegal. As harmless as people think it is to download a movie or song off the internet it is a serious crime that takes away from individuals who work hard for their products. The government has taken steps to prevent and prosecute individuals from piracy however they can’t seemed to reach a middle ground without infringing on the creativity that the internet inspires. With the aid of literary and secondary sources this research paper will present the argument for stricter internet piracy laws in order to convince the reader of the need for laws that regulate but also don’t stifle the growth of the internet.
While the internet has been around for the past decades internet piracy is still a relatively new concept that wasn’t illegal until over a decade ago. In 1999 the company Napster was founded by Shawn Fanning and served as the forerunner in providing a place to share and download music and files. More specifically Napster became the premier place for Peer-2-Peer (P2P) sharing allowed people (peers) to directly connect with other peers to share files. At a time millions of people downloaded unlimited amounts of music for free. “Digital piracy is the illegal act of copying digital goods–software, digital documents, digital audio (including music and voice) and digital video–for any reason other than backup, without explicit permission from and compensation to the copyright holder.” Gopal, Sanders, Bhattacharjee, Agrawal, and Wagner 3) This created a substantial amount of traffic and opportunities for any individual with a computer to obtain their favorite music without having to pay for cds. This company however didn’t last long as major music big wigs got ahold of what was happening on the internet and the Recording Industry Associations of America (RIAA) slapped Napster with a copyright infringement lawsuit in December 1999 just six months after the company was founded.
Through years of legal battle with the involvement of major musicians and other corporate people the judge ordered that in 2001 Napster would stop allowing people to download music without paying for it. However, the damage had already been done. Soon thousands of other P2P networks and applications had developed around the internet with companies such as LimeWire, Morpheus, Grokster, Kazaa, and others. Although the RIAA tried to go after these companies as it went after Napster but the courts found that the owners were not liable for what people were sharing on the networks. This proved to be setback for RIAA and other companies as they soon would realized that they could do nothing to stop or slow down individuals from creating applications for people to download and share files on the internet. However RIAA soon realized that it couldn’t stop people from creating web applications that enable users to download information they decided to go after the users themselves. According to the Motion Picture Association of America, “In 2005, MPAA studios lost $2.3 billion worldwide to Internet piracy alone. Posting movies on a Peer-to-Peer (P2P) service or an unauthorized website is akin to giving illegal copies to millions of people.” (RIAA) The problem with this approach as RIAA would soon learn that the users varied and most that they went after either had no money or weren’t aware that people in their house were downloading music illegally. The people that would show up in court tended to be young kids, parents, and grandmothers.
Soon P2P applications became a risk for users that would usually get infected with viruses or have the risk of being sued. Users moved on to other methods of free downloading called Bit torrents. Bit torrents are categorized as programs that allow for free P2P file sharing which allow companies and users to skirt around piracy laws and copyright infringement. This not only presents opportunities for the FBI and the RIAA to find and prosecute since Bit torrents works as file sharing from computers to the internet which makes it easy to trace the culprits. “Now, with cloud-based sites, like Wuala, uTorrent and Tribler, people stream movies and music from third-party storage facilities, often to mobile devices and TV’s.” (Bilton) However, users will continue to think of new ways to get around laws and more ways to download for free off the internet. This creates the difficulty in prosecuting and regulating laws for internet piracy.
Internet piracy once started off as just music downloads and moved on to movies, whole albums, software, and other files. The rise in illegal downloading of movies and music contributes to the decrease in music and movie sales. “According to the Economist, recorded music sales fell by 8% in 2007 alone, and industry experts blamed most of the decline on illegal downloading.” (English) As time has progressed the sales have continued to decline while internet piracy has increased. Experts have long studied why such the increase, ignoring the obvious that its free it is also still a crime. It is no surprise that, “recent study conducted for the Business Software Alliance (BSA) by Harris Interactive, involving 1,644 youth, found that young people clearly viewed downloading music (60%), software (56%), and games (54%) without payment less harmful than stealing from a store (92%).” (Chaudhry, Chaudhry, Stumpf, Sudler 3) Their reasons included that music, movies, and other files were easy to obtain, get the best quality, didn’t feel that their committing a big crime, and thought it was in protest of big businesses. When people download movies off the internet they feel that is a free night at the movies, as well as those that download music feel that it is a victimless crime. Internet piracy is a major problem for industries and is a major drag on the economy. “The internet’s sheer size and anonymous nature allow countless Internet users to illegally pirate computer software and distribute it on the Internet without fear of apprehension.” (Shayesteh 3) Internet piracy is not a crime that is often prosecuted with constant consistency. It is estimated that over 40 million people in the US alone engage in internet piracy. (La Roche 2) Movie and music industries have lost out on billions in sales due to the increase in internet piracy. In 2010 and 2011 the revenue in U.S declined over 50 percent on par with non U.S sales revenue decline. (Liebowitz 9)
Internet piracy isn’t a victimless crime is violates human rights as it conflicts with intellectual rights and copyrights of individuals. Intellectual rights are defined as, “Intellectual property (IP) refers to creations of the mind: inventions, literary and artistic works, and symbols, names, images, and designs used in commerce.” (WIP) Copyrights are the legal rights given to individuals for their artistic and literary works that include music, books, reference work, computer works, films, and other artistic work. Artists and individuals that create hold their valuable to them and the thought of people stealing and taking from them freely violates their rights. It is not only unethical but immoral to steal from others and sell or distribute other peoples work without their given permission. The attitudes reflected in pirating is express particularly in the youth and younger adults. “Consumer willingness to purchase counterfeits can emerge from an anti-big business sentiment; many times the consumer describes a “Robin Hood” (warez groups stealing from the rich to give to the poor) and/or “David vs. Goliath” (e.g., internet piracy is a means to attack the price-gouging music, software and movie industries) types of analogies to justify their actions of obtaining illegal goods.” %).” (Chaudhry, Chaudhry, Stumpf, Sudler 5)
The process of regulating piracy has been going on before the creation of Napster. In 1997 The No Electronic Theft Act (NET) was created in order to make the reproduction, distribution, and sharing of copies of electronic copyrighted works a federal crime even if they did not intend to use it for commercial use or financial gain. Bill Clinton signed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in October 1998 that makes it a crime to disable anti-piracy measures, code cracking devices, and websites must remove material that can be suspected of copyright infringement. This passage was not without controversy as critics argued over the terms of consumer rights and enforcement. The safe harbor clause in the DCMA says that Internet Service Providers (ISP)s are not liable for any copyright infringement even if they are the ones that are engaged in the alleged activities.
The FBI has made internet piracy a federal crime and is considered theft. However enforcement has made it difficult and the level of strictness has also caused the music and movie industry to question the efforts of the government. Leaders in the government tried to provide an answer with the failed passage of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) that would potentially stop online copyright infringement and the trafficking of counterfeit goods online. One of the strictest laws imposed however the problem lies in that it would infringe on personal rights and limit free speech. Particularly law enforcements would seek court order in order bar search engines such as Google from linking to websites suspected of copyright infringement, as well as advertising networks, payment facilities, and ISPs from conducting business with websites. While some view this act as proponent needed to stop internet piracy others fee as a way to block parts off the internet off. The potential passage of this act has brought out protests and opponents for both sides with corporations, celebrities, musicians, political pundits, and the President to speak out on the Act. The president has sided with those that opposed the Act because they feel that it does impose on the individual’s rights and freedom as well as stifle creativity of those on the internet.
Another strict policy includes the proposed bill Protect IP Act (Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act) with the intended goal of protecting copyright holders and the government to prevent websites from infringing on their goods. Opponents of the bill include legislators, companies, and other organizations that include Facebook, Reddit, Google, Wikepeida, LinkedIn and others. The problems lie in that the bill infringes on the first amendment to impact free speech, block websites, and any site could potentially be accused of copyright infringement. The outpouring of opposition from major companies creates a precedent that although the industry is wanting to protect intellectual property and copyrights, but doesn’t want to stop people from creating ideas over the internet.
These laws that are being proposed by the government is in response of the music and movie industries wanting stricter laws. However, these laws are infringing on civil liberties, creativity, innovation, and the spread of new ideas. There are several methods that have been created in order to deter internet piracy. “There is a plethora of anti-counterfeiting actions targeted at consumers (e.g. labeling techniques), distribution channels (e.g., RFID tags, DNA markers), pirates (e.g., monitoring purchases of key components), governments (e.g., lobbying for more IP legislation).” (Chaudhry, Chaudhry, Stumpf, Sudler 6) These methods not only protect against internet piracy but also the distribution of counterfeit online trafficking. The purpose of creating laws and regulations are to protect individuals’ creativity and artistry. Copyright laws provide economic incentives for individuals that give them the exclusive rights of distribution, reproduction, and creation of more creative works. In order to protect individuals laws must be made that not only protect the rights of copyright holders but also civil liberties of other individuals that use the internet to create and innovate. Trends in internet piracy suggest that the number of individuals participating in internet piracy will continue to increase as the decline in music and movie sales revenue will continue to decrease. Software piracy is becoming an increasing issue as well that major corporations such as Microsoft, Apple, and Adobe must begin to combat. As the internet is expanding there is more opportunities for criminals around the world to create avenues for people to partake in the criminal behavior of internet piracy.
In conclusion, internet piracy has become an alarming issue that is just starting to rev up. Many individuals are taking advantage of the ease of access and the creation of websites with the sole purpose of providing access to illegally obtained goods and products. Piracy is not a victimless crime it is a federal crime and prosecutable by law. Government and legislations have made steps in order to protect individuals and works on the internet dating back to the late 90’s. Throughout the years there has been little to know progress made on the current state of internet piracy. With the proposal of two acts that aim to protect and ban websites from copyright infringement they seem to do more harm than good. The two acts intrude on civil liberties such as freedom of speech, privacy, and place a stranglehold on creativity that generates the internet. There need to be stricter laws created however, they must keep to protect all individuals’ rights and continue foster an environment where ideals and innovation can continue freely.
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Chaudhry, Peggy, Chaudhry, Sohail, Stumpf, Stephen, Sudler, Hasshi. “Piracy in Cyber Space:
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